Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Epistle text for Sunday 29 September 2019

1 Timothy 6.6-19        There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time-- he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Reflection        A few months ago a friend asked me, “Are you happy or are you content?” Although it was not meant to be a trick question, it gave me pause. So I spent about a week wondering, “What does it mean to be happy? What does it mean to be content?” Here is what occurs to me. 

Happy describes a transient emotional state associated with a particular moment or event; being pleased, delighted or feeling lucky because of something or someone. Content is an overall or generally pervasive condition of life, conveying a sense of sufficiency. Like the deep ocean currents that are stable and predictable, contentment is more of a constant or reliable undercurrent whereas happiness arises as a surface wave that ebbs and swells in response to the changing winds and tides of circumstance. The dependability of contentment engenders balance and a sense of freedom to be and enjoy life as it is. But, contentment is discouraged by our consumerist culture that insists there is always something more we need in order to be happy. 

When we kow-tow to the voice of consumerist culture, there is no way we can be content because we are bent on acquiring more happiness. And there is the dig. Consumerism sells happiness, a transient emotion that cannot be sustained no matter how much stuff or how many exotic adventures we acquire. Socrates writes, “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.” 

The trouble with luxury is it does not satisfy. It inevitably ebbs (or rusts, or breaks or the adventure simply ends) dissolving into a sense of loss or emptiness. Contentment, on the other hand, sustains. By focusing on the good things about our lives rather than on the next shiny thing, or what the neighbors have, or what we are told we are lacking, we can choose to be grateful. 

And there we arrive at the denouement. Choosing to be grateful for our life as it is, we are free, free to be and express our selves, free to enjoy life this moment.  Choosing to be grateful for our life regardless of how much stuff we do or do not have. Which brings us to the pastoral letter to Timothy, “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” Being content we are free to affirm, we have just enough. 

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